Today: [Daniel 04] The King is Humbled and Eats Grass. In Daniel chapter 4, we find the king of Babylon exalting himself once again, and once again has a dream. As a result of this dream and its message, the king is humbled to eat grass like a beast and to suffer as a mere animal for seven years till he learns not to blaspheme. Herein we find an important lesson for all those who would be in power and seek to exclude God and deference to God from their courts and their precincts, lest they suffer a similar fate as the king of Babylon.
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[Dan 4:1-37 KJV] 1 Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. 2 I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. 3 How great [are] his signs! and how mighty [are] his wonders! his kingdom [is] an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion [is] from generation to generation. 4 I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace: 5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. 6 Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise [men] of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof. 8 But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name [was] Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom [is] the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, [saying], 9 O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods [is] in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof. 10 Thus [were] the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof [was] great. 11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: 12 The leaves thereof [were] fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it [was] meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. 13 I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; 14 He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: 15 Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and [let] his portion [be] with the beasts in the grass of the earth: 16 Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. 17 This matter [is] by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. 18 This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise [men] of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou [art] able; for the spirit of the holy gods [is] in thee. 19 Then Daniel, whose name [was] Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream [be] to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies. 20 The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; 21 Whose leaves [were] fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it [was] meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: 22 It [is] thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth. 23 And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and [let] his portion [be] with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; 24 This [is] the interpretation, O king, and this [is] the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: 25 That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. 26 And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. 27 Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity. 28 All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.
The lessons of chapter 4 of Daniel are most beneficially understood by reviewing the two previous chapters. In chapter 2 the king has a dream that Daniel interprets. In that dream the king is given to know that there are three kingdom eras in human history that will arise after his kingdom passes from the scene. At first the king rewards Daniel but then in chapter 3 he builds an image in defiance of the word of the Lord that declares his kingdom will come to an end. Instead of an image of varied construction, the king builds an image all of gold and commands all to bow down and worship it. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse, the king attempts to execute Daniel’s companions, but God intervenes to save them. Now, in chapter 4 the king seems to heap laudation upon Daniel and his companions after having another dream, that he wishes Daniel to interpret. It isn’t because the king desires to learn of the God of the Hebrews or to humble himself. He realizes that Daniel is a captive counselor, and that Daniel and his companions do not worship the gods of the Chaldeans. Just as he sought to overthrow the vision in the dream of the image of the kingdom, he is now apparently flattering Daniel in order to divine the meaning of a second dream, that he might defy its message as well.
This is the second dream that Daniel interprets in the book of Daniel this time being a case in which the king recalls his dream upon waking and shares it with Daniel. The dream is of a tree that grows very great until a “watcher” which we perceive to be an angel calls for this mighty arbor to be cut down and its roots to remain wet with dew under a binding of iron and brass and to have a heart like a beast for seven seasons. Verse 17 says this is a matter of decree “of the watchers” and by the demand of the “holy ones” to the intent that men on the earth might know that it is God Himself that rules over the kingdom of men and that God Himself sets up whom He will to be over it.
Daniel mulls the dream over for a time, encouraging the king not to be overly concerned about the meaning. Then, upon discerning the dream, Daniel answers the king that he wishes its meaning would apply to the king’s enemies and not to the king himself. The tree in the dream is the king and his kingdom. The interpretation is that the king will now become like a brute beast for seven years until he comes to know and is faces with the brutal truth that he is not a kingdom nor a power to himself, but owes all that he is and all that he has to the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. 30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? 31 While the word [was] in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, [saying], O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. 32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling [shall be] with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. 33 The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ [feathers], and his nails like birds’ [claws]. 34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom [is] from generation to generation: 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth [are] reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and [among] the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? 36 At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. 37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works [are] truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
The king receives the word and apparently is given 12 months to repent of his arrogance and his pride. At the end of 12 months, he walks in his garden, concluding that all his might and power arise from himself and no other. While this word is in his mouth the voice of God speaks and he is made like a mere animal to be driven from men for seven years until he comes to himself. His body takes on a terrifying aspect with claws and feathers and he eats grass like a beast of burden. At the end of seven years he comes to himself and at least for a time acknowledges and humbles himself before God till the day he celebrates in his house and a hand appears to declare that he is weighed in the balances and found wanting.
This is a message for all time and for every kingdom. In our culture, we are part of the toes of clay mixed with iron. Iron represents totalitarian governments of whom we are privileged not to suffer under. The clay represents human flesh, speaking of representative governments whose insistence is that they serve at the behest of the people, chosen by electoral principles and process. Whether be the case with you or not, the overarching truth is that God decides who rules among men and not we ourselves or our vote, or armies who seek to overthrow one regime in preference to another. That doesn’t mean that the government at hand is a righteous government. The king of Babylon was not a just king yet in Jer. 25:9 this very king, for all his godlessness and brutality is called God’s servant, just as Cyrus is called God’s servant in Isaiah. As believers we would do well to not be so seduced by political process that we forget that what happens on our knees in prayer before God is much more powerful and influential in the affairs of man than what happens in the voting booth.
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